HP High Court’s landmark judgment brings huge relief to children with disabilities
Hat’s off to the efforts of Umang Foundation and its Chairman Ajai Shrivastva. It took years of fight for the rights of children with disabilities, but Ajai Shrivastva finally made the High Court hear the grievances of children with special needs. Court also awarded the NGO with Rs. 100,000 to be spent for the welfare of the disabled children.
SHIMLA- The High Court of Himachal Pradesh, in a landmark judgement, has directed the Himachal Pradesh Government to provide free education to the students with disabilities up to university level. The court has also enhanced the amount of their scholarship.
Now Himachal Pradesh will become the first state in the country to ensure absolutely free education. As per the disability law in India the disabled students have right to get free education up to the age of 18 years only. Now thousands of poor students with disability will be benefitted in Himachal Pradesh and the State Government is directed by the Court to enact law for the purpose within six months.
This historic judgement was delivered by the division bench of the High Court comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan, taking suo motto cognizance of a letter written by Ajai Srivastava, Honorary Chairman of Umang Foundation, a public welfare trust, and a noted disability rights activist on the plight of disabled students to the Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court in July 2011. The Court also awarded Rs. one lac to the Umang Foundation to be spent for the welfare of the disabled children. The Court also granted various other relives to the disabled students.
The Bench observed,
“It is their (the disabled) fundamental right and basic human right to be housed, protected with all basic amenities, i.e. food, clothing, special health care, provision for compulsory and free education and avenues for employment.”
The Judges also said,
The advanced society is the one which is sensitive towards the children with special needs. It is our fundamental duty to show them path and to preserve their dignity and respect. All efforts should be made to assimilate them in the main stream and there should not be feeling amongst the disabled children that they are left alone on lonely island.
The court directed the H.P. University and other two State Universities to make necessary amendments in the respective ordinances and prospectus for providing free education to the disabled students. The court also directed the H.P. State Public Service Commission and H.P .Subordinate Service Selection Board to amend their regulations accordingly within a period of six months.
The Judges said,
It is the duty of the State to provide free and compulsory education to the children with special needs up to University level and all the professional courses in all the educational institutions under Articles 21/ 21 –A of the Constitution of India. It is also the duty of the State to provide financial support to these children by increasing their scholarships, stipends from time to time taking into consideration the price rise/ inflation under Article 41 of the Constitution of India.
With these observations, the judges made a direction to the Government to enhance scholarships for the disabled hostellers and day scholars.
Emphasizing the need to provide latest assistive technology to the blind students to “hone their skills to be self dependent”, the court ordered to provide screen readers, screen magnifiers, speech recognition software, text-to-speech (TTS)software, optical character recognition (OCR)software, large monitors, hand held magnifiers and standalone reading machines to them.
The court censured the State Government for the short comings in the implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. The Bench said, “The Himachal Pradesh University, H.P. Board of School Education, Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, H.P. Agriculture University, Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission and H.P. Subordinate Service Selection Board have failed to provide amanuensis to the blind students as per Section 31 of PWD Act, 1995.” It directed them to provide amanuensis to the blind students as per the law.
In the judgement, the Court took a strong exception of not filling the posts of teaching faculties in the Government’s Special School for blind and deaf girls at Sundernagar and Special School for blind and deaf boys at Dhalli, Shimla run by H.P. State Council for Child Welfare and said,
Ordinarily the Court cannot issues direction for sanctioning and creation of posts, but extraordinary situation required extraordinary measures.
It directed to create and fill up various posts of teachers and other supporting staff on regular basis in the two Special Schools within six months.
However, considering the attitude of Government towards high court’s many other directions given in past, it’s really hard to believe that HP government will be able to implement anything in six-months. It’s the judiciary that has passed a highly kind judgement, but implementation lies in the hands of the same MLAs and government officials who had been ignoring the grievance of children with disabilities all these years. Our government lacks will to serve the public as well as people who are willful to serve.
Hat’s off to the efforts of Umang Foundation and its Chairman Ajai Shrivastva. Not just children with disabilities but the NGO has been fighting for the rights of destitute women and mentally ill inmates of Home for Destitute Women in Mashobara. On a number of occasions, Ajai Shrivastva has come ahead to help people in need.